by Michael Bowen

1. Wild Planet's SL175 Waterball Single Launcher -- Dominate all weenies with their pathetic squirt guns. The SL175 "forms and launches 40 balls of water per minute." No silly spraying action; this baby delivers a statement with genuine impact on the back of your nerdy cousin's neck. When fully loaded, in fact, this cannon can fire "175 miniature waterballs -- perfect for surprise soaking. (They'll never know what hit them!)"

2. REI Pertex UL +10 Nooksack -- Remember the sleeping bag from the camp-outs of your idyllic youth? This is a whole different bag, man. It has a great "warmth-to-weight ratio" because the synthetic "down" isn't just layered but actually stuffed inside the shell. It's good for three seasons, but you can also curl up knowing that you're toasty down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Under Armour -- Two guys out for a run on a hot summer day. One's wearing a cotton T-shirt; the other has donned a "Moisture Transport System" known as Under Armour.

The second runner has horrible chafing from all that metal rubbing up against his crotch and underarms.

Just kidding. Under Armour isn't a steel medieval suit -- it's composed of a microfiber weave that takes the dew-like glow from your athletic exertions and evaporates it into nothingness. The rest of us, meanwhile, are carrying around an extra two pounds of sweat.

4. Black Diamond Beta Light Shelter -- Use your trekking poles as dual uprights, and you'll be packing a mere 22 ounces to keep shelter over your head. Sleeps two under its twin peaks and covers 35 square feet, yet stuffs into a 4-by-6-inch space. Best of all, the added silicon makes the nylon even more waterproof.

5. Cannondale Gemini 900 Freeride Bike -- This bike rips. Dual triangle frame, full suspension, even front and rear disc brakes -- all packaged in graphite black. On technical sections, your fellow riders will pull over to the side out of reverence. Be the Darth Vader of the rock-strewn slopes for a mere $2,200.

6. Goal-Rilla Sr. Basketball Pole and Backboard -- Grandpa Bowen just put up some plywood on top of our garage, but I guess that doesn't fly with the Gonna-Be-Recruited-by-the-Time-I'm-12 crowd. With a regulation NBA backboard and heavy-gauge steel, this "complete basketball system" can withstand the hang-on-the-rim antics of any Round Mound of Rebound.

7. Titanium Spork -- It's a spoon, it's a fork, it's on Superman's dinner table. Wait, he's only a Man of Steel. For just $9, dine instead with this ultra-light utensil and be a Person of Titanium.

8. Super Soaker Monster Rocket -- Prime the water propulsion system with several foot-pedal pumps, and this 7-foot-tall vinyl rocket will fly fully 100 feet in the air. Better yet, tilt the launch pad gizmo to 45 degrees, then issue threats against those obnoxious neighbor kids and unleash the awesome might of hydraulic-powered Malevolent Assured Destruction. Excellent.

Publication date: 06/10/04

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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About The Author

Michael Bowen

Michael Bowen is a former senior writer for The Inlander and a respected local theater critic. He also covers literature, jazz and classical music, and art, among other things.